Jeff White has been aided several times in recent years by crisis response teams serving some rural Iowa counties.  White, who suffers from depression and schizophrenia, can now call a state-run hotline and request a visit from mental health workers, rather than being admitted to a psychiatric unit or jailed by police.

Mental health crisis teams are no longer just for cities

Newton, Iowa — Jeff White knows what can happen when 911 dispatchers receive a call about a discouraged or agitated person.

He experienced this on several occasions: the 911 operators dispatched the police, who often took him to the hospital or to prison. “They don’t know how to deal with people like me,” said White, who struggles with depression and schizophrenia. “They just don’t. They are just guessing.

In most of these cases, he says, what he really needed was someone to help him calm down and find follow-up care.

That’s now an option, thanks to an emergency response team serving his area. Instead of calling 911, he can contact a state-run hotline and request a visit from mental health professionals.

The teams are sent by a program that serves 18 mostly rural counties in central and northern Iowa. White, 55, has received help from the crisis team on several occasions in recent years, even after heart problems forced him to move into a nursing home. The service costs him nothing. The team’s goal is to stabilize people at home, instead of admitting them to an overcrowded psychiatric unit or imprisoning them for behaviors stemming from mental illness.

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